MARA KILGORE— Most classes have essays or exams, but some Denison professor chose to have their students produce podcasts instead.
This past weekend, the Narrative Journalism program hosted the first ever Denison Podcast-a-thon. Seven classes from departments ranging from English to Geoscience to Classical Studies participated in this three-day podcast creation experience. Students discussed how to report on sensitive subjects, attended workshops on editing audio, and learned to write podcast scripts that would be memorable all the while crafting their own podcasts.
For each Denison class, a radio expert came to campus to work as the class’ mentor. Some mentors are from as far as Chicago, and all work in radio or podcasting. One mentor, Jesse Dukes from WBEZ Chicago, remembers brainstorming for this event with Dr. Shuler, the chair of the Narrative Journalism Concentration, nearly eight months ago.
“I was excited to help Denison think through how to incorporate audio and podcasting into their curriculum and instruction,” Dukes said.
And for Dukes, he believed that this event would equip students with universal skills they can take back into classes. When planning, Dukes and Shuler were excited to get students out talking to people they normally would not. In the end, their ambitions were realized; the final podcasts included interviews with faculty, building services staff, professors from other universities, and an array of Denison students.
Another experience Jesse believed would be special through the Podcast-a-thon is the process of producing a good story. He explains:
“When you produce an audio story or a podcast, there is a kind of magic that happens when you have some interviews you’ve done, some ideas, and a script. Then over the course of a day or several hours, through a lot of work, it becomes something you can listen to and would hear on the radio. There is a joy in the creation of that, and I hope students can experience that.”
The podcast-a-thon concluded Saturday night with the Pod-A-Palooza which brought together professors, students, and mentors to listen to the final podcasts created over the three days. The audio stories ranged from researching human relationships with food, students’ perspectives on Ancient Roman culture, and even investigating the Denison cemetery. Some brought the room to laughter while others led the student producers into uncomfortable situations and new experiences.
In the end, a few guest judges, including President Weinberg, deliberated on a winning podcast, taking into consideration sound production and storytelling. The common trait among successful podcasts was the presence of memorable moments — strong interviews, good music, or even a well-timed pause. These stood out in the production for they provided the audience something to cling to in the story. The winning podcast proved to be one which traced the history of Buddhist geography; as it played aloud, the audience shared moments of awe at the story and pride at the success of the event.